NASA National Championships

#24 and #25 at Historic Laguna Seca

A week of preparation and racing with two races each in ST4 & ST5, and then a 6-1/2 hr WERC Enduro in E1 & E2.

It’s September and we move into the final events of the season. Most importantly its time to see if we can secure the ST5 National Championship. To get ready for this monumental weekend for the team we fully prepped both cars to compete at their highest level. Not only were the cars prepped mechanically, but both cars received a fresh wrap to present as best as possible as well as to recognize our partners who make this possible.

After Utah other than the transmission mounting issue which we resolved with Kinetic Speed, the #24 car was pretty solid. There was an engine issue but we had already determined to install the #25 motor into the #24 and run it in the ST5 tune. After the engine swap, all systems checked out well and it was quickly turned around and ready for its fresh wrap. Unfortunately the #25 was not so easy. First we needed to build a new motor. Our spare had been sent to Millenium Motor Sports where it was machined and prepped for reassembly. We also brought in fresh cams from Bimmerworld looking for a small bump in overall horsepower in order to be more competitive in ST4. The engine build complete the car was reassembled and made ready to be sent to SignArt for fresh wrap before final prep for the Nationals. SignArt outdid themselves, the cars were stunning.

Both cars were dyno’ed and while the #24 car gave us exactly what was expected, something just wasn’t quite right with the #25. We will find out more later.

A very fun shakedown weekend with USTCC and IndyCar

A full week before the National Championships we would roll up to Laguna Seca. We will spend a weekend running with USTCC as a support group to the IndyCar finals. This weekend will allow us to gain precious track time and shake down the cars at the track where we will compete for the National Champion-ships in just another week. Both cars were very competitive. In fact, we won just about everything possible. Sportsman Champion, Rookie of the event and Team Trophies based on our combined finishes.

After this great shakedown weekend, we are convinced the #24 should be the class of the field, it appears ST5 is ours for the taking. The #25 was definitely still underpowered. Something is not right but we have yet to find it, the ability of the #25 to compete against true ST4 cars is still unknown.

A short week available to race prep for Nationals, and big shoes to fill…Team to beat.

Not everything was perfect at the USTCC test, in fact we lost a transmission in the #25 on Saturday. A spare was sourced from our friends at Edge and overnight we made the swap. It felt better on Sunday, but something still was off. On Monday, it was decided to swap the transmission out one more time, again Edge came through with a spare. Monday was mostly a day of rest for the team.  A few emergency repair parts were brought in overnight from our partners at Bimmerworld.  On Tuesday we prepped both cars in the trailer while waiting for a few the paddock to open on Wednesday. Our Red Line Oil fluids were changed as needed. Even the liveries needed to be updated. Off came the Hankook logos to be replaced with Toyo and Hoosier as needed. The #07 came off the 24 car and we were ready to run.

We ran practice on Thursday and both cars looked good. Times were impressive unless everyone else was sandbagging. The transmission in the #25 felt ok, but still not great. Friday practice came and went fast. The #24 was flawless and fast. We were ready for Friday afternoon qualifying.

The #25 was not fast, in fact it was not running due to a motor that had no oil pressure. After a quick study, we had lost an oil pump and pan as this new engine let go. This was definitely not in the plan. Guess who we called, that’s right Edge and once again they came through, you can not say enough about these guys, lets settle on great people. While the dead engine is pulled from the car, we sent a team to go pick up the spare from Edge’s shop. Looks like the #25 is going to miss qualifying, but if we can get it ready for the qualifying race on Saturday, NASA confirms we can run, starting from the back. Our team worked late into the night and thanks to our new solar and battery system from Panasonic and Enphase we had plenty of power to support the crew without having to listen to an annoying generator during the work. Unfortunately during the prep to drop in the new motor we found what could have been our gremlin, a bad harmonic balancer could have been causing an imbalance, did this cause both the transmission and engine failure? Saturday Morning, the rest of the parts arrived and so we filled the new motor with Redline Oil and got the car back on the dyno again in order to be ready for the qualifying race. Nik would need to rely on his track knowledge as he would get NO practice with the car and its replaced engine.

Back to the ST5 and the #24, while the crew is working on the #25, Matt Million took out the #24 and qualified on the pole, including the fastest lap time of his session. This car is following the plan, we will change tires and it should be ready for the Qualifying race on Saturday. The second and third qualifiers are good, but they just don’t have quite enough to stay with us through a full race. As expected our toughest competition is coming from our friends at Moorewood.

Saturday, and it’s time for the qualifying races.

First out is Matt in ST5. Matt took P1 in the qualifying race also adding the fastest lap of the weekend for ST5. There is no doubt that our ST5 car and Matt are the class of the field, we just need to protect the car and bring home the win.

From the pole Matt led the field the entire race and capped it off with a fast lap as well.

After much thrashing it was time to see if the #25 was ready in ST4. Nik would have a serious challenge on his hands as he is starting last in his group at P22 due to his lack of a qualifying time. At the end of his qualifying race he finished P6, what a run and he showed his talent on the track but also that the car was running its best of the weekend. Not perfect, and not up to the power of his competitors, but it was competitive in his hands.

Its time to crown the Super Touring Champions…

Sunday is upon us sooner than we could imagine, it is time to run for the championship, a cornerstone of our ST5/E2 Challenge. One race will determine whether the effort can continue to fulfillment of a lofty goal. With all that our team has accomplished, its time for that one race to see who deserves the crown.

The entire team is putting the final touches on the cars to ensure they are as good as they can be. An-other new set of Toyo RR’s are mounted on our new forged Apex wheels for the #24. As required by NASA in ST4 this year we put on the required set of Hoosier R7’s also on the beautiful new Apex wheels. Fuel is added as needed so that there is plenty to finish a scheduled 45 minute race, but not too much in order to run as light as possible. But can we run the slicks? Or will we need rains?

ST5—It has been pouring rain all night and is very iffy as we get closer to the race. It’s time to make a call, there looks to be a dry line, lets go with slicks. Matt’s on the pole but can he finish on top of the podium? Per NASA SpeedNews, “It would be safe to call the Team Palomar Racing’s ST5 efforts at the NASA Championships a dominant performance. Driver Matt Million was inch perfect all weekend, scoring the fastest lap times Friday, winning the Saturday qualifying race, and capping it off with a win on Sunday and the ST5 Championship.”

ST4—The last race of this years Championships will see Nik in car #25, its really a ST5 car, but we allow it a couple extra horsepower and challenged Nik to go win the ST4 title. It’s not really a fair challenge, this year this is probably the most competitive field at the Championships. His competitors are built to the edge of the rules. All the competitors knew the #25 with Nik Romano behind the wheel was the wildcard. The car was not quite up to the task, but the driver just might get it done anyways.

What a race. Starting P6 Nik drops back off the line, again the power affects his launch, but then he pulls the belts tight and starts working through the field. In the end, after an amazing drive he comes out of turn 11 in 3rd on his way to the checkered flag. Unfortunately, it ended with our friends at Edge Motorsports crossing the line sideways on our nose. So it didn’t end the way we planned, but we put up a great fight and they knew we were there.

“And I thought the month of September would never end! 8 days on-track in the span of 11 days. After the better-than-expected USTCC weekend, I gained a ton of confidence in myself, the team, and especially the car to enter NASA Championships and perform extremely well. 4 straight days of giving my best was both tiring and rewarding. We had a productive Thursday and topped every timed qualifying session on Friday. From there, the heat was on knowing we’d be the ST5 entry to beat. A relentless push in the Saturday qualifying race to make an early gap and slice my way through dense multi-class traffic paid off. It made clear what Sunday should look like! A great jump off the line and Sunday’s long 45-minute championship was looking smooth as I worked hard to build a gap. A late caution period nearly had the tides turn against us, but being smart in the heat of the 10-minute dash paid off. NASA ST5 National Championship for Palomar Racing. Couldn’t be more proud to play my part in bringing that trophy back to Escondido. Not possible without the hard work of our crew!”

Matt Million

Monday morning, one more 6.5 hour race to go…

Everyone is worn out, it has been a long two weekends of racing, and while successful it has taken a toll. After the #25 crossed the line last night with a car on the nose, we literally had to rebuild the car in order to make the green in the enduro. The front bumper mounts had taken a beating and had to be welded, thanks to our friend Mark Francis it was done and we were able to get the spare bumper on the car. The hood mostly closed and more importantly the cooling and suspension were undamaged. Its not perfect, but it will make the green. If only we knew the days schedule. The only thing we do know is we will be running without Nik. After yesterdays finish, he has been suspended for contact. We will be missing one of our most important assets. Nik is the drivers leader and knowing we will be going into this race down a driver will present yet another challenge.

We actually lost 2 drivers as a result of the ST4 finish yesterday. We have 4 drivers available to us for the 2 cars and 6.5 hours. Another challenge. Ok, Matt Million will start the #25 and run the first 2 fuel stints, put Ryan Keeley in the car for 2 stints and then we will have Sonny Watanasirisuk bring the car home to the checkered flag. Sounds good. Sonny W will start the #24, Lucas Weisenberg will take over and then Matt Million will finish. That’s right Matt and Sonny will double stint in both cars, close to 4.5 hours for each of them. Ironman type performances will be needed.

A lot is happening this early morning, a drivers meeting, practice, qualifying and pit set up all must occur between 8 and 9:30. After that we are on grid and its time for a 6.5 hour enduro, the years longest so far. Everything is going ok until, we get black flagged in qualifying for exceeding the noise levels. We are 105.1db on a 105db day! How is this possible? We have them recheck the car and it comes by at 104db, somethings not right, we shouldn’t even be close but we are not alone. Not enough time to deal with it and we need to get to grid.

We put the new tires on the cars and send them to grid, we are ready. Wait did we set tire pressures? Yes we did on the #24, wheels are torqued and pressures set. But not on the #25, torqued yes, but pressures no. We are on grid dropping pressures when we are told to clear the grid, we have only gotten the right side dropped from 38 to 24psi. As the green flag flies we bring Matt down pit lane to drop the left side tires. It takes forever, and by the time he re-enters the race he is 2 laps down. Find a pace it’s a long race, then we get black-flagged again for sound on the #25. We find a piece of conduit that can serve as a Laguna pipe and cheat the sound measurements by sending the exhaust away from the sound shack. After 2 more laps on pit lane he is back on track and we hold our breath, it worked!

Our pit work was solid all day on both cars. The drivers did their part and kept the cars at a pace that pushed all of our competitors in both classes. When the day was done both cars crossed the finish line together in classic GT40 fashion, side by side with the crew at the wall cheering them on. Matt brought the #24 across the line 1st in class E2, while Sonny piloted the #25 to a very respectable finish in 3rd place in E1. The crowd loved the podium as Matt and Sonny took to the podium in both E1 and E2. What a performance for the Palomar Racing Team.

Palomar Racing E2/ST5 Challenge is on track

  • NASA ST5 Regional Championship — 1st in class won 9 of 13 races
  • WERC E2 Championship — 1st in class won 4 of 5 races
  • NASA ST5 National Championship — NASA ST5 Champion — Palomar Racing driver Matt Million
  • NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill E2 — TBD December

Thanks to our Partners for their support

Actively seeking partners in addition to our primary Palomar Solar & Roofing.

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Apex Wheels
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Fast Sideways
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Toyo Tires Motorsport
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